Let me preface this with a disclaimer. Speed Racer is one of those pop culture references that I’d heard about but never really seen, being more familiar with the soundtrack than the series thanks to Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits. I hit the cinema with really very low expectations largely due to the less than stellar reviews doing the rounds, and the awful trailer. Speed Racer is a product that is trying to be a kids film while sporting such an avant-garde aesthetic that almost seems to be trying to carve its own genre. The experience left me in two minds; on one hand the story and acting is utterly lackluster, but the design (which I believe alienated the audience more than anything else) almost had be cheering in my seat on more than one occasion. It’s like Spy Kids hit Aeon Flux and then was translated into anime from the 1960’s. There was a wonderful flatness to the start of the film which pushed the 2D meets 3D mesh of a cartoon turned live-action. The film is gorgeous if very frenetic, bursts of straight-out cell animation during several key sequences sparkle with genius and humor. Nearly every background is replaced; exposition played out behind the foreground, and each scene hums with movement and pacing. The macro work is stunning, shots are beautifully framed and the lighting is lifted straight from a graphic novel. The colour correction of foreground and background elements is often out, given the budget and time this feels like an intentional design choice to further push the 2D feel of some of the world. It really is a beautiful film to look at and one that will be dissected and emulated in the future. That said the story and acting really let the film down, the plot is predictable and formulaic with very one-dimensional characters. Even the twists are telegraphed so far forward that the there’s no real tension or surprise, and the jumps in story and film logic are just as jarring. There’s plenty here designed to keep the children entertained with the scenery, action, and really impressive car combat, but parents and more thoughtful kids may find themselves waiting for the gloss and schmaltz to stop. There are also some scenes which really are very dark and out of place, almost as if the Wachowski’s themselves got sick of the bubblegum and plastic-wrap. The visuals themselves also suffer from occasional Bourne Ultimatumism – too much happening on screen and edits so fast that they leave no clear idea of what you’re looking at. There’s real genius in so many elements of this film but that genius is flawed. A story no worse than that of a million other join-the-dot offerings from Hollywood is wrapped in a package that often confuses and is questioned by the cinema going public. This isn’t a good mix. Yet I found myself captivated and in awe of so many elements, I left wanting to buy it on Blu-Ray and really appreciate it again and again. 3/5 stars.